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Christina Rossetti's No Thank You John And Robert Graves' A Slice Of Wedding Cake

1741 words - 7 pages

Christina Rossetti's No Thank-You John and Robert Graves' A Slice of Wedding Cake

Poetry is a completely malleable form of expression that writers use as an outlet for emotion and advocacy. Because each poet is distinct in form and content, a poet may harbor some characteristics that bare a resemblance to work of another. If there is no room for comparison, a poem may have a literary complement that sets up an interesting contrast between poems, or a poem may reinforce the ideas of another poem. The works of Christina Rossetti and Robert Graves are no exception. Though the two lived in different centuries, they both wrote about relationships between the sexes. Rossetti and Graves’ forms ...view middle of the document...

Serving time with the army in World War I provided Graves with inspiration for his first published work, “Goodbye to All That” (“Robert Graves” 2444). Starting with war as his subject, Graves settled on domestic concepts and the annoyances of personal relationships (“Robert Graves” 2445). Graves differs from most Georgian poets because his “visionary” and “colloquial” diction intertwine in his works (“Robert Graves” 2444). The language in his poetry creates a conversational rhythm in his stanzas (“Robert Graves” 2444). Graves’ tone is no contrast to his language. The Norton Anthology includes that Graves writes in a way that combines “the ironic and the visionary” (“Robert Graves” 2444). Graves’ poetry has most accurately been labeled by the Norton Anthology as “down-to-earth” (“Robert Graves” 2444). Graves lived his ordinary life until 1985 when he died as a poet who would be remembered on two continents for his works.

“No Thank You John” was written in 1859 by Rossetti and after reading it, one would find it impossible to forget the message of tactful rejection. In this poem, the speaker rejects the offering of love from the persistent John. Her work speaks to the idea of unrequited love. The speaker contends that she never told John that she loved him and that he knew she never loved him. As the poem progresses, Rossetti’s speaker moves from a simple refusal to an absolute rejection of a romantic love between she and John. The speaker’s rejection is not a heartless break-up ballad, but instead is a piece that offers the compromise of friendship in the final line of the poem. The line reads, “Here’s friendship for you if you like; but love, ---/ No, than you, John” (“No, Thank You, John” 1602). Though what the speaker’s offer is hardly a compromise to the devoted John, he will have to settle for friendship because the speaker has no interest in prolonging their relationship. Despite the seemingly insensitive message, Rossetti is sure that her speaker is polite because she is always mannerly in her refusal of John’s offerings.

Written one hundred years after Rossetti’s piece, Robert Graves uses verse to express his mocking thoughts about the marriage of “lovely, gifted girls” to “impossible men” in his poem “A Slice of Wedding Cake” (“A Slice of Wedding Cake” 2450). While Rossetti does not use negative epithets to depict John, Graves has no problem bashing the male gender in his poem. Graves cannot understand why some women willfully subject themselves to marriages with “idle” and “illiterate” men (“A Slice of Wedding Cake” 2450). Whereas Rossetti’s verse civilly rejects John, Graves’ poem painfully rejects marriages between well-behaved women and intolerable men as he slams men as “sly” and “dirty” (“A Slice of Wedding Cake” 2450). Rossetti maintains a respectful tone in her piece as the female speaker formally rejects John. Graves’ holds nothing back in his poem that is hyper-critical of the male gender. Graves’ puts the...

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